Thursday, January 12, 2017

Wheels on the Bus: An Actor's Perspective

Here's a post from Salim Razawi a familiar face from BACT shows like Five Little Monkeys, Rickshaw Girl, and our school tour on safety, Rock the Block.  Salim is an East Bay TYA educator and director, but Wheels on the Bus is his first production for the very young. Here he is to help us understand the value of theatre for the very young. 
Salim Razawi

When I was asked to be a part of Wheels on the Bus I can honestly say I was a bit hesitant. Although I do a lot of TYA, I had no prior experience in theatre for the very young and it was a nerve-wracking gig, but it has been an absolute pleasure. 
Wheels on the Bus Theatre for the Very Young

Wheels on the Bus takes the audience on an imaginary bus for an interactive journey that examines all manners of things that go around.

Theatre for the Very Young Wheels on the Bus

 As the bus driver, I invite the kids to patriciate in the show in whatever way they seem fit and they truly take this to heart. One pivotal point in the show is when the bus breaks down, as the driver I look inside and see giant gears that have stopped working, so we bring mini versions of the gears to the kids and ask them if they could help us make them go around. There are many interactive points in the show and sometimes we invite the kids to join us on stage to be an airplane with us, or help us put some round toppings on the pizza we are making. 

During one of my favorite performances, we invited all the kids to come up and dance like airplanes with us. 

In a sold-out house of 45 patrons only one little girl came up, but she took center stage and owned her airplane. 

Having this kind of interaction does come with its challenges, sometime a child or two may wander backstage or take the prop that we are about to use, but rather than reprimanding or saying no to them we invite them and ask them questions about said props. One time a child saw our sound system with volume control knobs, so, during a very loud bus traveling sound cue, he decided he wanted to see how those knobs worked and turned the volume on blast!  Luckily, I was able to adjust the sound quickly on my handy-dandy iPod that I keep on my arm throughout the show. 

This kind of kinetic learning is a huge part of why TVYA matter. 

I believe this work is so important, has great cognitive benefits for the developing and curious minds, and is so engaging and mesmerizing for the very young. I am one happy bus driver!

Thanks Salim, for sharing your thoughts, and for driving that school bus--forty toddlers can't be easy!

There are still some seats available for our season of Theatre for the Very Young, get them before they are gone! 

Here are some other great articles on the importance of Theatre for the Very Young:

Children's Fairyland: Theatre for the Very Young

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Pippi Longstocking: What is a Swedish Coffee Party?

A wonderful scene in the musical, Pippi Longstocking, and a cornerstone in Swedish culture, the coffee party is a foreign concept to Americans. 

Pippi Longstocking Coffee Party

What is a coffee party?

Unlike the multitude of tea parties featuring outfits from the dress up box and American Girl doll or teddy bear guests, the coffee party offers the Swedish alternative to the art of enjoying a beverage with friends.

Often called a Fika, coffee parties are a coffee break that involves drinking coffee, tea, or juice and eating some sort of sweet treat like a cinnamon roll or open faced sandwich.  There are often two fikas taken in a work day, giving employees the chance to catch up with each other over a beverage and snack.  Sweden mandates employees receive two fika breaks a day, and unlike American coffee breaks, employees won't be found glued to their phones or laptops--these breaks are purely for socializing.

Coffee Party

Similarly to American customs, a fika can also serve as a casual date.  Fikas can be held in homes or cafes.  There are even fika specials on train cars for those traveling in Sweden!  Clearly they take their coffee breaks very seriously.

The word fika is both an noun and a verb in Swedish.  You can drink fika, as well as be asked to fika with a coworker!

Unlike the American desire to consume caffeine as quickly as possible with drive through Starbucks and double shot espresso in a can, fika is less about indulging in caffeinated beverages and sugary snacks, and more about taking time for yourself, twice a day to slow down, take a break, and enjoy the little pleasures of living.  Fika is the perfect excuse to reconnect with yourself and others.

Thinking of incorporating fika into your life? Here are some amazing recipes for fika treats. 

Want to read even more about fika? Here's the book for you!

And don't forget to see a coffee party in action this spring! Pippi runs January 21-March 19.  Click for tickets. 

Monday, December 26, 2016

Charlette's Blog: A Holiday Interview with Fancy Nancy

Charlette caught up with Fancy Nancy star, Allison Meneley, after a performance.  Fancy Nancy Splendiferous Christmas
November 26-December 29 at The Osher Studio in downtown Berkeley.

I interviewed Allison Meneley who plays Nancy in Fancy Nancy's Splendiferous Christmas. Her mother inspired her to act. When she was about 8 years old her mother put her in a drama camp during summer. She liked it so much she caught the theater bug. I asked what she liked most about this play. She said she really liked her theater family. She met them a few months ago. Her theater family makes it fun to act and work for B.A.C.T. She didn't like the hair piece because it's alot of maintenance which is a fancy word for alot to take care of. It's almost like it has its own part period. She got her experience by going to the same drama camp every summer, and then she even started to teach it.  She started with singing and loved it then she did dancing and loved that too.  She went to college, and now she's getting her masters in theater education, so she can inspire kids like me.

 When she started working for B.A.C.T.  she helped out back staged for the play Edward Tulane. She was an understudy which is a fancy word for someone that knows your part and can fill in for you when your too sick or tired, for the original Fancy Nancy, Rhonda the 2 sport twins. She also did the Lady Bug Girl tour. She really likes all her parts for many difference reasons. Like the original Fancy Nancy because she made all her best friends in that show. She read the Fancy Nancy books and she was so happy to bring it to life on stage.  She did have to look in the book to see how Fancy Nancy poses and her clothes. 

She grew up watching plays and her first one was Phantom of the Opera when she was 9. One of her favorite plays in New York is Spring Awakening.  She saw it last year.  She also really enjoyed Finding NeverlandThe advice she would give all young actors is to never lose sight of who you are and don't lose sight in the fun.  She is a great actor and I hope I see her again. I really enjoyed the show. 

Monday, October 31, 2016

Kara Blogs: The Whimsical World of Seuss - An Interview with Chelsea Wellott

BACT Blogger Kara got the chance to interview actor Chelsea Wellott recently and learned what goes into creating the whimsical world of Seuss -- particularly when it includes playing multiple musical instruments!


I have watched many BACT plays but this has to be one of my top favorites. The plays main storyline was a mix between Horton Hears a Who and Horton Hatches an Egg. My favorite part of the play was when Horton’s dotted egg hatched! There were many characters in the play but the character I liked the most was smart, inventive JoJo. JoJo is a little Who that has big ideas which some in Whoville don’t agree with. I like him because he has a big imagination and so do I.

Actor Chelsea Wellott as Mrs. Mayor. Photo by Jay Yamada.
After watching the show, I got to interview JoJo’s mom, the Mayor of Whoville’s wife. The person who plays JoJo’s mom is Chelsea Wellott. Chelsea Wellott is making her third debut in BACT plays. She was in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and Bad Kitty (I saw both of those too!). This is her first time playing an instrument in a show. She plays the guitar and the Ukulele. Amazingly, she only learned the Ukulele a week before trying out for the show. 

Besides playing an instrument, her favorite thing about her part was using a character voice. As an actor, she has always enjoyed using different voices. The hardest part for her was memorizing all the music and then learning to sing and act on stage while playing the music. Her favorite scene to act in was with her husband, the Mayor and her son, JoJo. Part of the scene was about her and Mr. Mayor talking to JoJo about his grades because they were low, so they were telling him he should stop imagining things. I liked that scene because the characters emotions came out well. This made it a good scene. 

Her favorite scene to watch is the song Alone in the Universe masterfully sung by JoJo and Horton. Her favorite Dr. Seuss book is Oh the Thinks You Can Think and mine is Oh the Places You’ll Go! Her advice for future actors is, “Don’t be afraid to look silly because everyone gets nervous,” and “Have fun and know that your fellow actors are there to support you.” I enjoyed interviewing Chelsea Wellott because she played the Ukulele and I would like to do that too! Finally, one of the morals of this play is, don’t be afraid to be creative and let your imagination run wild like Seuss.


Seussical TYA continues its run thru December 11 in San Ramon & San Francisco. Get your tickets today!

Monday, October 17, 2016

Julietta Blogs: The Many Stories of Seussical!

The colorful cast of Seussical TYA!
BACT Blogger Julietta shares her thoughts on the many stories that go into Seussical TYA


Just recently I got to go to the Seussical play. The Seussical is about Dr Seuss books. I was excited when I found that I was blogging for the Seussical because I really like Dr Seuss books. I really liked the fact that there were many Dr Seuss books in the play instead of just one. In the play, there was live music, which was really cool to see the actors playing musical instruments as well as playing their character. It was super fun going to the play, and I can't wait to see another BACT play!

For my blog assignment, it was a little different then usual. I had to try and name as many Dr Seuss books as I could that were featured in the play. There was so many books in the play that I hope I caught all of them. 

So these are the ones I could catch: 
The Cat in the Hat
Horton hears a Who
McElligotts pool
Gertrude Mcfuzz
Did I ever tell you how lucky you are?
Green eggs and Ham
And Horton hatches the egg

I thought it was cool how they made all these books go together in a play, while Horton hears a who was the main story that all the other stories went off of.

My favorite book in the play was probably Gertrude Mcfuzz, but it was really hard choosing a favorite because I really liked all of the play. I liked this book best because of the costumes and because it was really funny.


Seussical runs in downtown Berkeley at Freight & Salvage through November 6 before heading to San Ramon & San Francisco. Get your tickets today!

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Kara Blogs: Machines Come Alive

BACT Blogger Kara relays how the magic of theatre can bring a picture book like Goodnight, Goodnight, Construction Site to life, and also shares a summary of the show!


Cement Mixer and Dump Truck!
The BACT musical, Goodnight, Goodnight, Construction Site delivers a play that brings every day machines to life. One of the ways they brought these machines to life was through their costumes. The characters wore super zippy shoes that had wheels on the bottom. They also wore bright yellow construction hats that had decorative, toy machines on them which symbolized who they were. The characters were busy Bulldozer, dynamic Dump Truck, musical Mixer, excellent Excavator and cranky Crane. 

When the show starts, all the machines are hurrying to get the job done because it is at the end of the day. Mixer rushed ahead of Bulldozer, Crane got cranky and they did not work together. They get back on track, but soon realize they need a goodnights rest. So, they start to get ready for bed. My favorite part of the play was story time. They act out the story of Little Red Riding Hood, but, instead of a girl Little Red Riding Hood it was Little Red Tractor, and instead of the Big Bad Wolf it was the Big Bad Monster Truck. There was also Orion, the super hero, who wore a super, shiny, silver cape and saved the day. 

The cast of Goodnight, Goodnight, Construction Site!
At the end of the program, Cement Mixer gets frightened of the dark and Bulldozer comforts her with a song of friendship. One thing that made the show amazing was the way the performers connected with everyone in the audience. At a point in the program, some of the actors and actresses walked around and gave high fives to the kids in the audience. I think that made the kids feel special. It made me feel special. Goodnight, Goodnight, Construction Site teaches you about teamwork and friendship. It is a show you should see with the whole family!


Goodnight, Goodnight, Construction Site, the Musical runs thru July 31 at Children's Fairyland in Oakland before heading to the Children's Creativity Museum Theater in SF in August. Purchase your tickets today!

Photographer: Melissa Nigro

Monday, April 25, 2016

Julietta Blogs: My Interview with Mitali Perkins

BACT Blogger Julietta had the opportunity to interview Mitali Perkins, author of the book Rickshaw Girl, at the show's San Francisco opening! She shares her experience below!

The Rickshaw Girl play was super cool! It is about a girl named Naima. She wants to help her dad get some rest while still making enough money to pay back a loan for buying a new rickshaw, so she tries to drive the rickshaw. Instead, she crashed it. It will be very hard to fix such a beaten up Rickshaw, but if they don't fix it, her dad won't get any business with it.
A rickshaw built by actors with props! 
I liked the book because it inspires girls to help them know that they can do anything. I liked how Naima's passion for art turned out to not be useless, but very important for her family. In the stories beginning, Naima really likes art, but she thinks because she cannot help make money, she is useless for the family. At the end, she realizes that it is a good thing that she was a girl, or else she would have not been given a chance to paint Rickshaws in exchange for the repairs of her dads Rickshaw.

To bring the play to life, they had to make a Rickshaw for the actors to use. At first, the Rickshaw is just a bunch of pieces, but when actors held up the pieces while moving it, you could see the rickshaw, and I thought that was a great idea. There was even live music for the play!

After the play, I got to meet the author of Rickshaw Girl, Mitali Perkins, to interview her. Her favorite part to write in Rickshaw Girl was when Naima's dad says "its a good thing you turned out to be a girl." She liked that part because she had two older sisters and everyone cried because she wasn't a boy and now her parents say that to her. She was inspired to write the book because of the Rickshaws she saw and she also learned how it was hard for girls to make money in Bangladesh. She thought it would be a great idea to show in her book how it is changing now. Besides Rickshaw Girl, Mitali wrote 9 other books! She is also working on a novel and a picture book. Mitali is local to Bay Area in Orinda. Rickshaw Girl is not yet popular in Bangladesh yet. The book is not translated yet, either. Mitali started writing books because she loved reading and she wanted to write books for other people to enjoy just like she enjoyed reading. She set the story in Bangladesh because that was where her parents were born. She likes art a lot. Her favorite tool to draw with is colored pencils. She especially likes to draw alpanas because they are really simple and easy. It was great getting to meet Mitali and it was really great getting to interview her.
Author Mitali Perkins (L) with BACT Blogger Julietta (R)

Rickshaw Girl continues for one more weekend at the Children's Creativity Museum Theater before heading to the Osher Studio in Berkeley. Purchase your tickets today!